Netherlands beats Cameroon, stays undefeated
The Netherlands produced its first flair and finesse of the FIFA World Cup on Thursday, beating already-eliminated Cameroon 2-1 in Group E action in Cape Town.
Robin Van Persie finished off an end-to-end move in the 36th minute and substitute Arjen Robben rifled a shot off the post in the 83rd minute that Klaas Jan Huntelaar tapped in.
In between, Samuel Eto'o scored from the penalty spot for Cameroon in the 65th.
"Our play was good," Van Persie said. "We can be really pleased with this."
After the match, Cameroon coach Paul Le Guen said he was quitting.
"I ended my mission," the Frenchman said. "Now I will reflect carefully."
The Dutch won their group with nine points and will face Slovakia in the round of 16 on Monday in Durban. Japan also advanced from the group, beating Denmark 3-1 and eliminating the Danes.
Playing with poise and confidence, the Dutch often thrilled the crowd of 63,093 with their creative moves. Yet Eto'o and Cameroon still were able to pierce the defence and threaten goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg.
"We were far too nonchalant in the second half," Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk said. "Our final spell put us on the right track again, but consider this a serious warning."
In the 73rd, the tens of thousands of orange-clad fans at the Green Point Stadium cheered when Robben made his debut at the World Cup almost three weeks after sustaining a left hamstring injury in a warmup game.
Robben shows value
And he immediately showed his value. After tiptoeing carefully during his first moves, he was served a pass on the right in the 83rd. With a move so often seen during his sterling season with Bayern Munich, he cut inside, beat defenders and curled off the post that Huntelaar poked in.
"It is good to be back," Robben said. "I had to get back in the groove and it worked. Too bad the shot did not go in."
Just his entry, however, lifted the team.
"He showed he can really break open any game," Netherlands defender John Heitinga said.
After two victories, Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk was bent to keep his momentum going and played both midfielder Nigel de Jong and Van Persie in the third game, even though both would have been excluded from the match against Slovakia if they had earned another card.
Instead, Van Persie scored a typical Dutch goal in the 36th minute, one which flowed from defence to attack with crisp, pinpoint passing and equally precise finishing.
After Dirk Kuyt took the ball up on the right, Van Persie played a neat one-two with Rafael van der Vaart and then shot through the legs of Cameroon goalkeeper Hamidou Souleymanou from a tight angle.
Cameroon, which put Africa on the football map when it reached the quarter-finals at the 1990 World Cup, did not give up and won a penalty when Van der Vaart handled a free kick from Geremi in the area.
Eto'o, long tipped as one of the World Cup's defining stars, equalized
Late in the game, Cameroon defender Rigobert Song came on for a cameo appearance at his fourth World Cup.
While many other teams were often involved in desperate battles in their last group games, Cameroon and the Netherlands played more often with the pace and intensity of a pre-World Cup preparation game.
It was perfect for Robben to make his belated entry into the World Cup as the Dutch used all of their Big Four for the first time — Robben, Van Persie, Van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder.